Six Lessons Dance Competitions Teach Marketers

I’ve watched the last two seasons of “So You Think You Can Dance” with fascination. I have tremendous respect for how these dancers use the human body to evoke emotion. But it is more than that. While watching tonight’s selection of the final 20 candidates it dawned on my why I’m so intrigued by the show. These dancers are trying to tell their story under intense pressure and amongst incredible competition. They are doing with their bodies, what marketers try to do with our communications each and every day.

Marketers can learn a lot from dance competitions

There are incredible lessons these dancers teach us about story telling and standing out in a crowd.

Don’t be afraid to stand out – On the contrary, dancers in competition are surrounded by quality competition. Fading into the background is a losing strategy. The only way you make it to the next round is to draw the judges eyes to you. Let’s face it, there are few if any products or services that have no competition. The way to win business is to stand out. Don’t be shy, tell the world why they should be looking at you instead of alternatives.

Be genuine – The dancers who stand out on the show are those who bring themselves to every kick, spin and leap. It’s not good enough to know how to dance, you have to know who you are.

Demand excellence You don’t get through Vegas week on the show by being OK. You get through auditions by showing capacity for technical strength. But don’t be misled excellence isn’t about perfection, it’s about being striking and demonstrating you can meet the needs of your audience. By demanding the best of yourself given the constraints of time and resources you’d be amazed how much you can achieve.

Bring on the personality – Dance technique is simply not enough. You must be able to show passion. It simply can’t be faked by technical excellence. The same is true of our marketing efforts. Don’t just tell your prospects what you do, show them why they should care deeply.

Get outside your comfort zone – One of the things I like most about this competition is that dancers are tasked with dancing outside of their art form. The ballet dancer is required to master contemporary, the street hip hop artist must excel at ballroom. In marketing it’s tempting to stick with what we know. The PPC programs that have always delivered, the email newsletter that drives consistent click-through rates or the tried and true web seminar series. By all means keep doing those things, but don’t fall into the trap of stagnation. Get outside your comfort zone, it will make you even stronger at your strengths and you might be surprised at what you learn.

You don’t succeed on your own – I love watching dancers who have never met before being thrown into group dances. Despite intense competition, the dancers only succeed when their peers perform. As marketers we’re not alone. Lean on your colleagues because you can never succeed in a bubble. Good marketing is not a narrative, it’s a story and working with others makes a truly compelling story.

Dance competitions aren’t easy, but neither are our jobs. And while you’ll never catch me doing a perfect pirouette, or spinning across the ball room floor with grace, you’ll be sure to catch me dancing to new marketing beats. Queue music.